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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Discussion Point - Is Black & White Beautiful?

I've said many times, both here on this blog as well as on Twitter, that as a youth I eschewed the black and white magazines. When the Essentials and Showcase Presents "phone books" were released, I purchased a few but generally turned up my nose at the presentation of color material without... color. But lately I'm starting to have an extreme change of heart.

Since I began my love affair with the Bronze Age magazines - all of about a year ago - I have come to the conclusion that much of the art actually looks better in it's created form, sans color. I think the inks often add enough depth that in some cases, color would severely detract from the image or even from the entire book. This is not at all to give the impression that I now dislike color comics... far from it.

I'll even share a personal weirdity of mine: I really don't care to read comics in black and white that originally saw the light of day in color. I'm again speaking of Marvel's Essentials line and DC's Showcase Presents. I don't have an explanation for that hangup, as I am a big fan of original art, whether in raw form or as reprinted in the fabulous IDW Artist Editions (and their imitators). I think my issues may have to do with the reproduction process. If the comics in the Essentials (for example) were reproduced from pre-color sources, then they'll look clean. However, and this example specifically speaks to the Essential Avengers, volume 3, when the comics appear to just be photocopies of color pages there can be a really muddy look to the art. It reminds me of an anecdote I heard about the filming of Schindler's List. If you've not seen it (recommended/not recommended - it's a powerful film that will stick with you for quite some time after viewing), 98% of the movie is in black and white. But on the sets, in order to get the tones Steven Spielberg desired, actors would often be clothed in odd combinations of colors - all so the black and white would filter correctly and look pleasing to the eye. The shades would "make sense" in the final product. This is what I'm getting at with my sometimes-complaints about color comics reproduced in B&W.

I hope the samples I've provided, all previously seen in reviews here, help to show the textures available in the 1970s magazines that you just couldn't get in color comics. And especially with the printing process and paper quality in the Bronze Age. Here, where I see shading it is intentional and done with a deft touch that could probably be mimicked by today's coloring processes; not so 40 years ago. But don't get me going on computerized coloring...

Where do you stand (or sit) on this issue? Have the magazines of which you've partaken pleased your eyes? Do you find value in these works as art? Or are you a "color snob"? Jump in with a comment, and hopefully a nice discourse gets rolling. Thanks in advance!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Maus: A Survivor's Tale. My Father Bleeds History, Chapter 2 - a Review

Maus: A Survivor's Tale. My Father Bleeds History (1986)
"The Honeymoon" - Volume 1, Chapter 2
Art Spiegelman

Last month I began a series of reviews of Art Spiegelman's masterpiece, Maus. In chapter one, we met our protagonists, Vladek and Art Spiegelman, father and son, respectively. We got a flavor of Vladek Spiegelman's personality in Art's present, and began to explore events in Vladek's life as a young man in pre-War Poland. We were also introduced to Art's mother Anja, deceased in the present. Now we move deeper into the biography of Vladek and Anja, while also becoming more aware of Art's tribulations as Vladek's son.

100-Word Review:
In “The Honeymoon”, Art Spiegelman reveals further layers of his father’s personality - much of it derived from his experiences before and during World War II. Among other things, we find that Vladek borders on obsessive/compulsive. We also learn that Anja had left-leanings, of which  Vladek and Anja’s parents disapproved. Art uses the incident of the “conspirations” with Anja’s Communist friend to show us the various factions in 1930s Poland - Jews, the Polish police (clamping down on the opposition), and the growing awareness of the neighboring Nazis. We see the birth of Art’s older brother, and witness the first reaction to the sight of the swastika.
I'd mentioned in my first review that when I originally purchased Maus, I read it cover to cover in one sitting. The chapters are relatively short, and I think it's that format that spurred me on each time I reached a stopping point. Also as I said before, the story is so engrossing... it just draws you in.

The Good: I've discussed Maus at length with colleagues at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While most really like the story as a Holocaust biography, some are hesitant to embrace it as a learning resource. I've had a dialogue with one particular gentleman off-and-on through the years. His stance is that Maus works at too many different levels to be truly effective anywhere. What we've deconstructed is that, in his opinion, the shifting from past to present, the length of time spent on the relationships between Art and Vladek and Vladek and Mala in the present, and the ghosts of Art's brother and mother make the book an odd stew of sociology, anthropology, history, biography, autobiography, and memoir. I've rebutted that those "issues" are exactly the book's strength. With no intent to disparage any of the plethora of Holocaust biographies and memoirs, what sets Maus apart is not only its format as a comic book, but also how deeply it peels away the layers of people affected by the Holocaust narrative. One of the concerns among students of history, and specifically Holocaust history, is that we stand on the cusp of the day when there will be no Holocaust survivors, or liberators, or even perpetrators alive. Some worry how the story will be told once those 1st-person voices have gone. Many academics feel that they will have to rely on the children and even grandchildren of those principle players, a group of people known as 2nd- and 3rd-generation survivors. Although Art Spiegelman was born after the War, his life's experiences were almost wholly shaped by what his parents had endured in the 1930s-'40s.

I suppose for some it could be problematic that Art does not always specifically peg events narrated by his father with firm dates. This doesn't bother me, as there are just enough dates sprinkled throughout to help my mind move the story along across time and place. In fact, later we'll see a scene where Vladek begins to tell a story and Art stops him specifically to ask about the timeline. Some say this is a shortcoming to memoir - those writings are often stream-of-consciousness. That doesn't make it bad history; it's just history told from personal perspective. It has value.

We're not told at this point what happens to Anja after the War. By the end of chapter two we've been made aware that Anja was a small woman, that she came from a wealthy Polish-Jewish family, that she gave birth to Art's older brother, Richieu (and later to Art), that Richieu did not survive the War, and that after giving birth that first time Anja suffered a severe bout of post-partum depression. All of that serves as foreshadowing for what will be revealed later in this volume. It's also worth noting that two chapters in, it's somewhat difficult to ascertain the emotional depth of Vladek's and Art's relationship. There's been just enough said, and we're able to watch Vladek in his day-to-day activities, to suggest that's it is definitely a strained relationship. Yet we also feel that Art finds value in his father's past, and has a sense of urgency in recording his father's thoughts.

I've said little about the art, so here goes: It works. Sometimes I read Maus and I think the art is so simple; at other times I am astonished at the level of detail and emotion in each scene or even panel. I love the animal metaphors, and really like the scene in today's chapter when Vladek and Anja are at the sanitarium for her convalescence. Art also manages to convey impact with is choices of panel size, page layout, and backgrounds. He also uses a non-panel or broken panel format sparingly but to great effect. Having read interviews with Spielgelman, as well as his reflective memoir MetaMaus, I know how meticulous he was in trying to get things "right".

The Bad: I oscillate between being really put out with Vladek Spiegelman and pitying him. I guess where I land is in a state of personal tension. When he is "on screen", I just know he's going to say something that will set Artie off, or he'll do something worthy of slapping my head. But those are my reactions, and I find that I need to self-rebuke and remind myself constantly that he is a product of his life's experiences. In the first chapter overview I looked at some of Vladek's faults when he was a young man - his snooping around Anja's medicine cabinet, the focus on money, etc. We're all flawed, but none of those things would have brought him to the state he's in when Art conducts the interviews. Vladek was a changed man because of the Holocaust and the path his life ended up taking. For that, I feel ashamed of myself that I lose my patience with him.

The Ugly: Art does a masterful job of hinting at the rising tide of Nazism and antisemitism, and then drops it on us like a house. The 1/2-page image of the Polish Jews seeing the Nazi flag for the first time, followed quickly by four vignettes of antisemitic behaviors leave no uncertainties of where this story is headed. From this point on, we'll feel the downward spiral for Vladek and his family and associates. And along the way, we'll be amazed at the dangers they faced, and how Vladek often evaded the worst of it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Appreciating Joe Kubert's Tarzan of the Apes

When you think of Tarzan in the comics, do you think of the Western days and the work of Russ Manley or Jesse Marsh? Or do you go even earlier and recall in your mind's eye the newspaper strips by Burne Hogarth? If you're a Bronze Age Baby like me, perhaps it's the Tarzan seen in Marvel's series and illustrated by the brothers Buscema. Honestly, you couldn't go wrong anywhere across that spectrum, and I've certainly partaken of "all of the above" (and shoot - let's add the paintings of Boris Vallejo and Neal Adams that adorned the Bantam paperback covers to this love-in).

But today let's bask in the glory that was Joe Kubert's Tarzan, running from April 1972 to February 1977 and written/illustrated by Kubert. Kubert's Tarzan was lithe and athletic. The jungle-scapes were lush, the animals a sight to behold - truly off the realism scale. Knowing all this, I couldn't wait to purchase the first volume of the Joe Kubert's Tarzan of the Apes Artist Edition. At the time, I'd come into some cash from the sale of my collection. Those high-end books had become affordable. You should know that the things I treasure most about seeing original art are the evidences of the thought-process during creation - white-out, blue line pencil, eraser marks... those sort of things. But darned if Joe Kubert didn't nail it the first time. There were zero corrections that my eyes could find. None. Throughout the entire book! Sounds dumb to complain about clean original art, but I eventually sold it to make room for other Artist Editions I wanted. It's my hangup - I'll own it.

Leave a me thought on Kubert's Tarzan, and thanks in advance!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Dueling Pencils: The Tower of the Elephant - a Review

Today we're going to hop in the wayback machine, journeying to June 8, 2012. On that date I published a post on the Bronze Age Babies that placed some artwork we'd used about six months earlier in our review of Roy Thomas's and Barry Smith's "Tower of the Elephant" adaptation side-by-side with the John Buscema/Alfredo Alcala rendering in Savage Sword of Conan. We had some nice comments then, and I'm hoping for more of the same. And if nothing else, I've added a splash of color to the blog today!

Many thanks to my co-author and partner, Karen, for her blessing in my use of this material that is half her own. I appreciate her continued support in this endeavor that is the BWBC. And interestingly, you'll see us remark a time or two on the computer coloring in the Dark Horse Chronicles of Conan trade we each used in our original review. Ironic, isn't it, on this blog that celebrates comics in black and white? On to the review(s) -

Doug:  How many stories can you name that were written by one author, but illustrated by two masters, six years apart?  Today we're going to look at such a tale, "The Tower of the Elephant" featuring Conan the Barbarian.  Karen and I ran a review of the comic on the left, above, back in December 2011.  I have the reprints of The Savage Sword of Conan that Dark Horse has been publishing, and the last story in volume 2 reprints "Tower" from Savage Sword #24 (November 1977).  The latter version has very pretty pictures from John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala.  Given that the original version was put together by Barry Smith and John's little brother Sal, it's going to be difficult to go wrong here.

Doug:  We're going to reprint our review, but relocate the Smith pictures and set them side-by-side with the Buscema versions -- as close as we can get it to the same scene that we used the first time around.  Oft-commenter Cerebus660 said, back in December (with some minor editing by me):   

Roy Thomas was a master at adapting REH's work and getting the tone just right (within the boundaries of the Comics Code, of course).  Barry Smith's artwork was rapidly maturing issue by issue, and this story's final image of the tower collapsing is just beautiful.  Thomas had another go at this story when he wrote an extended version for Savage Sword Of Conan no. 24, with artwork by that team supreme, John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala. It's very interesting to contrast the two different approaches...

Doug: If you're new around here, feel free to comment on the story itself or on our review; if you recall us doing this last year, then critiques of the different artistic interpretations are your mission.  So, away we go --

Conan the Barbarian #4 (April 1971) -- originally reviewed on December 26 2011
"The Tower of the Elephant!"
Roy Thomas-Barry Smith/Sal Buscema

The Savage Sword of Conan #24 (November 1977)
"The Tower of the Elephant"
Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Alfredo Alcala

Doug: Happy Holidays, everyone! And what cries out "Good will toward men" like a barbarian slugfest?

Doug: I can't hardly contain my excitement over the art in this issue. Last Wednesday Karen and I (and a few of our faithful commenters) remarked that through the first several issues of Conan one could watch the maturation of Barry Smith's art. This being only Smith's fourth outing, it's nonetheless a tour de force. From the first page, his backgrounds are busy, the facial- and figure work are dynamic, and almost all hint of the Kirby-cloning is gone. We also touched on the computerized recoloring last Wednesday... it's my opinion that it really adds to this moody tale.

Karen: Although Sal Buscema is credited as the inker on this issue I thought it really looked quite different from issue 3, which he also inked. I don't know if he was experimenting with brush work or what, but the lines here seem heavier and thicker, particularly in the first few pages. Whatever the case, the art was very strong in this issue. I agree about the coloring -I think they've done a very good job here, one that doesn't distract the reader.

Doug: We begin in the filthy thief-city of Arenjun in Zamora; think of the cantina in Star Wars and you'll get the idea. A fat rogue of a thief-kingpin speaks loudly about his prowess as a slave-trader and stealer of women; in the course of the conversation he mentions the Elephant Tower of Yara and the jewels hidden within. A strong hand lights on his bulbous shoulder -- it belongs to the young Cimmerian Conan. He notes that he has had his eye on the tower since coming to Arenjun, and that it seems unguarded. The rogue laughs at the youngster's ignorance, and it's obvious that others in the tavern know of the Tower -- splinter conversations abound. Conan wonders if someone could bypass the ground guards, if he had the courage. That does it -- the probing questions aside, this final insult sets the Kothian rogue to near-frothing at the mouth. The rogue strikes Conan across the chest, which draws the ire of the Cimmerian, as well as of his broadsword. A brawl ensues, as the candles lighting the den of thieves are knocked over. When they are again lighted, the thief lies dead on the floor and Conan has left the premises.

Karen: This is a great sequence, one that really pulls you in to Conan's world. You can practically smell the perfume, smoke, and sweat in this thieves' den. Smith's art is also becoming much more detailed -note the pattern on Conan's sword.

Doug: Conan has approached the silver tower, which rises from a large high-walled garden. As Conan stealthily approaches the perimeter, he sees a purple-robed figure approach the guarded gate. Initially denied entrance, the robed figure rebukes the guard and is granted entrance. Conan notes that as the figure moves, his feet hover slightly above the earth! Racing around the wall, Conan scales it and drops to the other side. Getting his bearings, he begins to move when he suddenly trips over the body of a guard. Had the robed figure strangled the man to death? Conan looks around, and feels another presence moving slowly through the garden. Spying his company, and after sizing each other up for a moment, these two trespassers introduce themselves. The newcomer tells Conan that he is Taurus of Nemedia, known as the King of Thieves, and also the true killer of the guard. Coincidentally, Conan and Taurus have arrived in the same space and time with the same goal. I thought it was interesting here that neither Conan nor Taurus seemed suspicious of the other, and they quickly formed an alliance to steal the fabled Heart of the Elephant.

Karen: Thomas does a good job getting across Conan's youth and inexperience. He is both awed and frightened by the priest Yara. I can't imagine the Conan of later years reacting that way. The alliance with Taurus does seem a bit convenient though.

Doug: The now-allies move toward and onto the inner wall. Bent on their common goal, Conan continues his inquiries into the history of their prize. Asking Taurus just why this location is called the Tower of the Elephant, Taurus asks Conan if he knows what an elephant is. Conan tells that while he's not seen one, he does know that they are "monstrous beasts, with a tail at both ends." It's here that we see how Robert E. Howard often plugged in existing world history and mythology and the terminology of both. Conan mentions that a wandering Shemite had told him this. The term of course references one of the sons of Noah, Shem, who (if we are to believe classical anthropology) served to repopulate the earth in the area we'd call the Middle East. Anyway... As our protagonists land on the other side of the wall, they immediately see that this new area is guarded by a group of three silent lions, who rush towards the two thieves. Taurus takes out a blowpipe and pushes a green dust into the air around the beasts. Conan is incredulous as the animals breathe their last, and asks what manner of substance they were felled with. Taurus answers that it is the powder of the mysterious black lotus.

Karen: I enjoyed Conan's remark about his god, Crom: "Great Crom lives on a mountain...and little he cares for what men do with their tiny lives." We'd hear a version of this years later coming from the mouth of Arnold Schwarzenegger! That powder Taurus had was pretty amazing stuff -lucky he didn't inhale any!

Doug: Reaching the wall of the tower, Taurus pulls out a grappling hook and rope and gets it to hold fast on his first toss. Conan suddenly whirls to see a fourth lion pouncing. Conan lashes out with his sword, killing the beast. The two men begin to scale the tower. They marvel at the surface, encrusted with uncountable jewels and gemstones. Reaching the top, Taurus tells Conan to walk the perimeter of the tower's landing to look for guards below. With Conan distracted, Taurus sneaks inside the door and shuts it behind him. Conan senses this potential treachery and returns to the door. Conan hears a sound from within like a man being strangled, and Taurus' limp body falls back through the door into the barbarian's arms. Bearing only small needle-like marks on his neck, Taurus is cast aside as Conan cautiously enters the room. Amid caskets of jewels, Conan moves forward until he is smitten on the shoulder by an acidic liquid. Suddenly a giant black spider swings down and attacks. Conan evades the spider's first attack, but before he can reach the door the creature encompasses the barbarian in a sticky, constricting web. Conan is able to grab one of the heavy jewel boxes and hurls it at the giant arachnid, crushing its head.

Karen: I was very taken with the way Smith drew the tower -glimmering, almost in motion it seemed. The coloring no doubt enhances this; I'd like to see the original comic book coloring for a comparison. The fight with the spider was brief but exciting. Earlier Conan had remembered a story he heard, that Yara, the priest of the tower, had once turned a prince into a tiny spider. Perhaps this was another victim of the sorcerer, although much larger?

Doug: Conan enters a door he'd not seen previously during his conflict with the spider. Entering and descending some steps, he sees a large green elephantine idol seated on a throne. As the Cimmerian approaches, he is stopped in his tracks by fear when the creature begins to move. It looks around sightlessly, assuming that Yara has come to torture it -- from his words, this has apparently been a regular occurrence by both fire and the racks. Conan hesitantly speaks to it, and the creature names himself as Yag-Kosha. Conan tells the green elephant that he will not harm him; in turn, Yag-Kosha asks Conan to come closer so that he may touch the barbarian. Conan does so a bit too willingly for my tastes (no way... I'm thinking no way -- it's gotta be a trick!), and Yag-Kosha begins to speak of the origins of his people and how he came to be in this place. He reveals that he is an ancient space traveler who came to Earth long enough ago that he witnessed apes become men. Eventually his people died out, and Yag-Kosha was the last of his kind. He later taught a pupil named Yara, a sorcerer already gifted in the black arts. Once Yag-Kosha had given of enough knowledge to make Yara truly his master, the elephantine man was imprisoned by the scheming Yara. The very tower which he had built for Yara in but a day now served as his confines.

Karen: The elephant man's tale is a bitterly sad one. Even the barbarian is moved by it. Smith does a fabulous job here. Yag-Kosha is brilliantly drawn, not ridiculous but imbued with a tragic nobility. Again, the level of detail is stunning. Look at the pattern on the drapes, on the small amulets Yag-Kosha wears on his tusks, vines growing up sides of buildings - Smith was really thinking and putting it all into this art.

Doug: Yag-Kosha asks Conan to kill him. Yag-Kosha tells the barbarian to plunge his sword into the alien's heart and then take the Heart of the Elephant jewel and set it before Yara. He must then recite an incantation which will finally do in the corrupt sorcerer. Conan does all this. Yara is sleeping in a nearby chamber. Conan enters the room and shouts Yara's name, causing the sorcerer to awaken and curse Conan. Conan places the gem, now blood-red, on a table and Yara is magically drawn into the gem. Yara begins to shrink, stepping out of his clothes and eventually becoming the size of a mouse. Yara somehow scales the smooth surface of the gem and disappears into it. Conan's eyes widen when he sees an image of a majestic Yag-Kosha awaiting. Conan, having been warned by Yag-Kosha to flee, leaves the tower, getting far enough away to see The Tower of the Elephant collapse. The Heart of the Elephant was not to be his -- but what an adventure!

Karen: The coloring of the sphere is wonderful and once again, I have to agree that this modern coloring technique can bring a lot of life to the art. I think this is one of the more fantastical Conan comics I've ever read. It just has more fantasy elements than a lot of the stories. There's very little swordplay but it still manages to be an exciting tale.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here are some B&W samples of Valentine's cards, lifted from Pinterest - gratitude to the owners/creators. Hey, print-n-color for your Sweetie!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hell-Reapers at the Heart of Paradise - a Review from Doc Savage 2

Doc Savage #2 (October 1975)
"Hell-Reapers at the Heart of Paradise"
Doug Moench-Tony DeZuniga

How do you like your pulp? If it's orange juice, I don't. But if it's more of the hero variety, then it's gotta be like Doc Savage. True confession time (I do that a lot around here, it seems): Prior to purchasing Dynamite Comics's phenomenal-looking hardcover Doc Savage Archives, vol. 1 - The Curtis Magazine Era, I had had zero interaction with the character. Zip. I know, I know... Now that's not to say I was a pulp virgin - of course not. I've had plenty of eyeball time with all of the Robert E. Howard heroes; ditto for the Edgar Rice Burroughs stable of characters. Toss in some Zorro, Buck Rogers, and the Lone Ranger and I've actually read quite a few pulp stories. But for whatever reason, never Doc Savage. I'll try to change that soon.

So why'd I buy the hardcover if I didn't even know if I'd like it? Free money, effendi. I'd come into around $50 of disposable cash several months ago. Given the options, I figured since I wasn't losing anything - and knowing I'd need some resources for this blog - I picked up the Savage book, the Vampirella: The Essential Warren Years trade I'd used for last month's review, and the second volume of The Savage Sword of Kull the Conqueror (featuring Dark Horse reprints of the Marvel magazine). I've read the first two stories in the Doc Savage book, and since I liked the second installment better than the first, here we are. Let's dive in!

100 Word Review:
We open with a quite-large Viking-looking fellow menacing a realtor (of all things). The man is kidnapped by his attacker, and we move ahead a bit to a man seeking help from Doc Savage. But that’s no man! It’s Sandy Taine, whose father went missing some time ago whilst on an Arctic expedition to find Spanish gold. Problem: He’s been accused of murder - but is nowhere to be found. Doc and his team will need to find clues to other kidnappings, and we’ll find that this adventure will lead them to the Arctic, and below! But are they prepared to meet subterranean reptilians?
The Good: How easy must it be to write when you can do whatever you want? Fantastic technology? Let's do it! Exotic locales? Why not? A world beneath our own and populated by reptilian humanoids? Sure!

Saying that I do not mean at all to undermine what Doug Moench has plotted thus far in the two reprints of the Marvel Doc Savage magazine. On the contrary, these are well-crafted tales! Clark "Doc" Savage was created by Street & Smith publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic and first saw print in March 1933. Additional elements were added to the mythos by author Lester Dent. If you've seen any of the Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers serials, then you have a real sense of what these pulp characters could be like - larger-than-life and able to push any boundaries needed for that month's narrative. Moench and series illustrators John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga (the latter flying solo in today's issue) take all the wildest and wackiest of the pulps and cut loose. I think we've often read, and remarked, that John Buscema felt most comfortable between the covers of a Conan or Thor mag - fantasy lands, where his mind could go away from the drudgery of cars and buildings and guns and all that. Yet in Doc Savage, both he and DeZuniga seem to rise to a different level - there is power in these comic pages. These guys were nothing if not professionals, but the work seems fired at a higher temperature than normal. These books are pretty awesome to look at.

Doc Savage is the best of all our heroes - he's Captain America, Tarzan, Batman, and Iron Man all rolled into one. Brave, smart, intuitive, and creative - the whole package. He also comes with help - five men who've sworn their loyalty to Savage and who sometimes take care of the dirty work, but are always willing to move forward with their leader. If there's such a thing as a "man's man", then these guys are that. They are fearless, and are adept at kicking some tails and taking names. In this story, it's these five faithful men who begin the case by listening to a Mr. Sandy Taine; little do they know that Doc is approaching the building in his Autogyro and picking up the augmented conversation. It's Doc who sees through Taine's disguise and get to the heart of the matter. And away we go.

I really have enjoyed the vehicles used by Savage and his aides. These are sharp machines, evocative of Batman's arsenal for travel. In Doc Savage #2, we see the Autogyro, the Runabout, the Amberjack, the Helldiver, the Juggernaut, and the Hydro-glider. Bruce Wayne's fortune? Gotta be peanuts compared to the resources Savage had at his disposal. And that raises another important point about the original pulps: those tales were written as the Great Depression was landing hard on Americans. To have a hero seemingly immune to the financial terror gripping the nation had to be a welcome release, a respite of fantasy.

Without going into a longer plot synopsis than I did above (and that the art samples provided hopefully convey), suffice it to say that the story moves at a pretty good clip and everything fits nicely. Moench has bad guys with motivations that are believable (albeit pretty bad guy-ish), heroes who behave as such, a twist here and there, and a satisfying if mildly predictable conclusion. As mentioned, pulpy things like settings, technology, and uranium (because who doesn't love themselves some atomic age fiction?) all knit together this mammoth 54-page tale. Doug Moench did good work.

The Bad: Above I commented on Doc's five faithful men. While those guys are certainly an asset to Doc (and the stories), there's just something mildly unsavory about the relationship. I'm not suggesting that those guys are in any way slaves to Savage - far from it. But their loyalty seems somewhat over the top, almost fawningly symbiotic, if that makes any sense. Each of the five are supposed to be at the top of their various disciplines, whether it be archeology, chemistry, law, etc. Yet they often prove inferior to Savage's intellect and intuition. This of course serves to elevate our hero to superman-like status. But at the expense of the other characters, it gave me a bit of pause. Overall, what it has inspired me to do is to get some of the Doc Savage novels downloaded to my Kindle.

The Ugly: I got nuthin' here this time. I've liked what I've read so far in this beautiful book. The stories are long and do require a little stamina/perseverance, but it's ultimately time well spent.

Leave a comment, please, as I know there are readers who have a much more intimate history with Doc Savage than I do. I'd love to hear your praises and get a sense for your nostalgia about the character. Thank you in advance!

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